Nearly an island itself, San Francisco tends to isolate its residents from the communities around it. Branch out from your typical city life and take a trip out to one of the many islands surrounding San Francisco, from islands hosting quaint communities to those exclusively preserving wildlife.
Perhaps the mostly widely known island around San Francisco, Treasure Island is located to the east of San Francisco, easily accessible by car via the Bay Bridge. Linked to the smaller Yerba Buena Island, these two are technically a part of San Francisco itself, home to approximately 1,800 residents in addition to a variety of small businesses and restaurants, schools, and community organizations. Treasure Island is popularly visited for events like the monthly Treasure Island Flea Market and the annual Treasure Island Music Festival. Visitors can come to explore the beach, relax at the picnic area by Clipper Cove, go tasting at one of the island’s wineries, or visit the Treasure Island Museum Association to see historical exhibits or attend a free lecture.
Angel Island is another popular spot, located to the north of San Francisco. The entire island is in the bounds of Angel Island State Park, overseen by California State Parks. Take a private boat or a public ferry to get there, and enjoy gorgeous views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin Headlands, and Mount Tamalpais. Popular activities on Angel Island include tours, hikes, and biking – bike rentals are available on the island. You can also visit the old United States Immigration Station, which has been converted into a museum today. While on site, visit Angel Island Cafe for food and drink, or meander on over to Angel Island Cantina for live music.
Once a federal penitentiary, Alcatraz Island to the north is now one of the most iconic tourist attractions in San Francisco. On the island you can enjoy a close up of the first lighthouse built on the west coast, tour the former prison, or enjoy the island’s gardens, tide pools, bird colonies, and sweeping views. To get to Alcatraz, you will need to take a round trip ferry hosted by Alcatraz Cruises, which comes with an audio tour of the island. Due to the island’s popularity, it is highly recommended to book your reservation in advance. Tours are available both during the day and at night.
Brooks Island Regional Shoreline is located in Richmond, CA, to the northeast of San Francisco. The island is 373 acres large, accessible only as part of a naturalist kayak tour through the East Bay Regional Park District. The island is a sanctuary for birds, home to over 18 species including Caspian Terns, Black-crowned Night Herons, seagulls, and ducks. There is also a variety of unusual plant life on the island, a salt marsh, and wildflowers in the spring. The peak of the island is 160 feet high, offering breathtaking views of the Bay Area.
Alameda Island is located to the east of San Francisco, also linked to Bay Farm Island. The two islands are home to the city of Alameda, a charming town filled with Victorian houses and shopping districts, featuring vintage and antique shops. Plus, the community embraces its island identity by hosting a variety of Hawaiian restaurants and tiki bars. Spend some time at Crown Memorial State Beach and enjoy great views of the San Francisco skyline. You can take the Alameda Ferry to get to the island.
West of Angel Island, Belvedere Island is located to the north of San Francisco. The island is part of Marin County, home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Herons have been known to reside there, and a variety of plant life has been found that is common on the nearby Ring Mountain. The island is mostly rocky, with an elevation of 69 feet. Part of the town of Belvedere is housed there, and it is separated from the rest of Tiburon by Belvedere Lagoon. From the island, you can enjoy lovely views of Sausalito and Angel Island.